A template for the perfect prospecting letter

All jobs are not advertised!

Career opportunities often come about from two people who happen to be networking with one another or from one person reaching out to another and prospecting. If the latter is you, you may have an interest in my “perfect prospect letter;” at least in my humble estimation.

(1) SUBJECT: “Isn’t 802.11x a waste of your time and money?”

Dear (Insert Name Here):

(2) I read about you in the September 2008 issue of Techlinks Magazine. Is 802.11x a waste of your time and money? I hope not! (3) I just invested my time and money in becoming a Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNA), the only vendor neutral and industry-approved certification for Wireless technology in the world today. (4) When I read your comment on how your company will leverage this technology, I began brainstorming on a few ideas that may prove of benefit to your organization. Time permitting, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you. (5) Are you available for a 15 minute brainstorming session? Please advise…


(6) Steve Findley
Information Technology Professional
Websites: http://www.stevefindley.com
Phone:         678-123-4567

Obviously, you do not have to add numbers within your reply letter.

They are there only as a reference for our example, so as to identify the purpose for each line.

  1. Shorten your letter to a quick note (4 lines ideally) with a catchy subject line
  2. Identify how you found them
  3. Cite your qualifications VERY concisely
  4. Tease them on the benefit of speaking with you
  5. Suggest a very short “brainstorming session” as this will give the feeling of actual work being done and as such, meeting you will not be seen as a waste of time. Hopefully the conversation will be so engrossing that it will lead to additional meets. (smile) *Let them choose coffee, lunch or phone conference and you make yourself available to whatever they choose. Once inside, be sure to dazzle and always leave them wanting more.
  6. Your name, a quick repeat of your skill set, a link to where they can read up about you online and a phone number where they can immediately reach you.

What overqualified really means

Okay, if you have been searching for a job long enough chances are you will hear this dreaded phrase, “Sorry, but you’re overqualified for the position.”

Sure on one hand it is a compliment that someone thinks you are too good to be working for them, but on the other hand you still have to eat and being overqualified is not putting food on the table.

In case the term “overqualified” has been an enigma wrapped up in a mystery for you, let me tell you what employers really mean when they throw that word around.

Let the demystification begin… (Insert the sounds of monks chanting here)

  • You’ll be harder to get rid of if things don’t work out because of discrimination issues. Gee, its difficult to get more blunt and to the point than that. A lot of times, it all comes down to prevention. On down the road if the powers that be want to use their mighty axe in cutting jobs, it is to their advantage to let you go in favor of someone cheaper and umm… more easily bossed. Of course there are certain agencies such as the EEOC that would have a field day with this, so why even create a minefield to step into later?
  • You’re going to drop them as soon as a better job comes along and no employer wants to get somebody “broken in” only for him or her to leave in a short period of time and go through the process all over again. (If you are single and looking to get married, you may be able to identify with this one better than the previous example.)
  • With your experience, no doubt you would be an expensive hire and they are not trying to spend any money, especially on your paycheck. If it’s not your paycheck, then raises designed to get you back to the compensation you are accustomed to or even sick leave.
  • You’ve been there and done that and you’re going to get bored with the job as it is beneath your talents. Not only will that make it hard to motivate you, but also you might become something like an apathetic virus infecting the rest of the crew.

Dealing with these issues and fears will take a great deal of tact and care, but remember that you have the upper hand; you just have to convince them of that.

Tell them how much money your experience will save them and give examples where you improved profit margins and business processes. Point out that you are looking for a “home” and not a “job” and that you believe in what they are doing so much that you are willing to take a cut. Stress how much of a team player you are and how that as an “overqualified” worker you overwork to get the job done, something exemplified in your resume, references and letters of recommendation.

Like anything else it is a sales pitch

But at least by addressing the four issues mentioned above, you can muster a good defense with a strong first striking offense.

Get ready to rumble!!!!!!!!

Whoops, sorry, forgot myself there…. Next topic please.

I Can’t Hire You if I can’t Find You

If I wanted to hire you, could I find you?

If I looked on Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs, perhaps I could; but what if I did not look there, or on any other job board for that matter?

Here is an ugly little truth that jobseekers do not think about.
When a company posts a job description on Monster or searches its database for resumes, it costs money. So, you know what happens? Large companies look for free resumes on the web to save the money they would have spent on job boards and smaller companies that do not have accounts with these job boards, look on the web to find free resumes.

The bottom line is that if your resume is not online, you are doing yourself a disservice.
If you search the web for “free web hosting,” I dare say that you will find plenty of resources for posting your resume (or any other content) online for free.

To be sure, positioning your resume where all recruiters will have free access to it is imperative, yet that is only part of a winning strategy.
Recruiters look for resumes using a series of specialized searches called “searchstrings.” Searchstrings are based on keywords that the Recruiter thinks would be on your resume. For example, a Recruiter looking for a Programmer in Atlanta might visit Google and enter the following searchstring:

intitle:resume programmer education atlanta | GA 678 | 770 | 404 -submit -apply ext:doc | ext:pdf

To explain the searchstring above,
I am looking for documents formatted in Word or PDF that have “resume” as a title with the keywords “programmer” and “education” mentioned in the document. I am also looking for the words Atlanta or GA as that is the preferred location. Furthermore, I added area codes specific to the Atlanta area as well. Why? Candidates often list their phone numbers on their resumes. To see the results of the search above, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/6b23h4 and you will be redirected to a Google search results page.

Now that you know how Recruiters search the web for resumes, why not make it easy for them to find you?
I suggest that you create a Resume Profile page in lieu of a cover letter. What is that? A Resume Profile page is a keyword list a Recruiter can scan to get a quick understanding of what you have to offer. When I was looking for work in 2002, I created an HTML version of my Resume Profile page and placed it online. Today, I am still being contacted by Recruiters who have found my Resume Profile from a Google search.

(See it for yourself: http://jimstroud.com/resume.htm )

The moral of the story is simply this, if you position yourself to be “found,” you will not have look so much. (Smile)

How to prospect the hidden job market

Okay, let’s get this blog post going with a simple multiple-choice question.

When picking up a newspaper, you search for jobs in:

A) The Classifieds Section (Want-ads)
B) The Business Section
C) The Front Page
D) The Entire Paper

The correct answer is… E, all of the above.
Okay, so maybe I did not list an “E” as a selection, but that was because I wanted you to think about it. The first answer was probably the most obvious answer to most of us, but was it the only answer? Was there another way of judging the question? If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, would anyone even care? Probably not, but I digress…

Everyone goes to the classifieds when looking for a job.
It is a necessary step (didn’t I already say that in chapter one?), but only the beginning. Keep in mind that these are the jobs EVERYONE else is looking at as well. I suggest that you put your major focus on every other section of the paper that reports real news (failed celebrity marriages obviously would not apply), and in particular business news; primarily because that is where the real jobs are!

Let me give you an example of what I mean.
I pick up a paper and I flip through the business section of The Atlanta Journal & Constitution. I notice an article about some company in Alpharetta that just closed a deal on a new facility, where construction will begin in one month. One person may look at that and say, yeah, whatever… but I would look at that in several ways;

“New facility” implies:

  • some construction workers will be needed
  • electricians
  • eventually some LAN/WAN networking will need to be done
  • interior design so the office would look nice
  • expensive pictures on the wall to impress perspective clients
  • lots of computers will be needed for the workers to do their work on
  • phones would be needed
  • who is going to manage those people?
  • who will manage the managers of those people?
  • and of course the obvious for me, a new facility means new workers will be needed, so I better hit them up early before the other recruiters catch wind of this as well!

So, from that one article, there are at least 10 jobs
that have not been announced or even written up yet.

So by acting early, I could call and find out who is in charge of that facility, who is in charge of hiring for that facility and proactively send my resume in. This way, I could be the first-in-line for a position, before a job description is even conceived or written. And why would a company even write a job description if your resume is already there and you are a perfect fit for their need?

Here’s another example:
I read an article about a charity function where the purpose is to promote technology to high school students. (For those who feel charity begins and stays in the home, a big “I gave at the office” expression may appear on your face). But you could be missing out on an opportunity. Reading deeper into the article, it is discovered that Earthlink is one of the major sponsors and so is Coca-Cola. Hmm… those are some big companies that hire in big numbers, when they do hire.  Hmm… might be worth a visit to their kick-off party. It might also be worth it to volunteer a few hours here and there as it may get you closer to an executive with pull within the corporation, or at the least another name that you can call on. What’s the worse that could happen in volunteering for a charity? You help somebody in need, besides yourself. (Ahhhh… I just want to hug myself for that one.)

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

I really wish I could take full credit for this, but truth be told, this strategy is a knock-off of an idea I picked up from Eric Jaquith. (If you were among the fortunate few who attented SourceCon 2007, then you know what a whiz he is.) The idea is from the viewpoint of Recruiters, but I think jobseekers can see the potential in this strategy as well.  In a nutshell, one can add an audio clip to a resume as a way of promoting a candidate to a potential employer.

To demonstrate this, I have addded an audio clip to an outdated version of my resume and am availing it to you (again) for demonstration purposes only.  So without further adieu, click here to download my resume and see this trick in action.  (Be sure to double-click on the speaker icon and turn your speakers up.) But I digress…

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

Let’s imagine that you are a TPR (Third Party Recruiter) or a Corporate Recruiter or a Retained Searchfirm, or whatever and you are SOOOO excited about a particular candidate that you will just bust if the hiring manager does not review the resume. However, the Hiring Manager is very, very busy and does not have the luxury of time to look at the resumes he asked you to produce, much less listen to all of the reasons why they should interview your candidate right away. So what do you do? Well, you might want to try embedding a voice message into the resume you send in; that way they can hear your excitement and pay closer attention to the document that were planning to quickly scan over.

“So Jim,” you say, “That sounds interesting, but I don’t know how to do that.”

“No worries, all you need is a copy of Microsoft Word and a microphone,” I reply, “Let me show you how to do it.”


1. Make sure you have a microphone that works with your computer. No biggie, as you can pick one up at Wallmart for $10.00 (more or less).

2. Open up a new Word document

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

3. Pull down the Insert Menu and click on: “Object”

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

4. From the Object window scroll down to “Wave Sound.”

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

5. Highlight “Wave Sound” and click “Okay.”

6. A little window that looks like a tape recorder pops up.

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

7. Click on the red dot button and begin recording your message. By default you get sixty seconds, but if you stop the recording before it gets to the very end and start recording again, you get sixty more seconds.

8. Once you’re done recording, close out that window.

9. Like magic, a speaker icon appears in your Word document.

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

10. To play back the sound file, simply double-click on the speaker icon.

11. Add a message next to the speaker to remind the reader that an audio message is embedded. (You might also want to mention that they should be sure to have their speakers on.)

How to embed your voice inside of a resume

And that’s it! Pretty cool huh? *(Now I started this demo with a blank document and then I cut and pasted my resume in, but that does not matter as the resume could have been there the whole time.) I would very much like to hear your comments on this and (even better) solicit your testimonials on how this strategy has worked for you. If you would, simply leave a comment below. And again, to see a working demo of this: Click here to download my resume, double-click on the speaker icon and turn your speakers up.

Good luck!

-Jim Stroud